Irish Medals: 1932 Tailtean Games (Gilt-Silver) for Golf


The idea of the Tailteann Games, which ran from 1924-1932, was a nationalist legacy of the revolution of 1919-1923. The 1932 games were a bit of a disappointment for the organisers, since many of the top Irish athletes were competing in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and had left Ireland weeks in advance in order to get there via long boat and train journeys.

Tailtean Games [Aonac Tailteann], Dublin, 1932, gilt-silver award medal, unsigned [by Oliver Sheppard, for the Irish Jewellery Co]. The Collectors' Shop, Dublin, Ireland.

Tailtean Games [Aonac Tailteann], Dublin, 1932, gilt-silver award medal, unsigned [by Oliver Sheppard, for the Irish Jewellery Co] presented to the winners of the International Events.

Some peripheral tone to reverse, matt surface with some details polished in the manufacture, extremely fine (E.F.)

  • Diameter: 51mm
  • Golf Competitions:
    • Men’s International Event: Milltown Golf Club
      • Mr W.J. Gill (Portmarnock) winner (6&5)
      • Captain C.H. West (Royal Dublin) runner-up
      • The beaten semi-finalists (bronze medalists) were:
        • Mr W.E. Bell (Portmarnock)
        • Mr L. Welsh (Royal Dublin)
    • Ladies’ International Event: Woodbrook Golf Club
      • Miss F.M. Blake (Woodbrook) winner (6&5)
      • Miss M. McLoughlin (Clontarf) runner-up
        • Miss M. McLoughlin was the 1928 Ladies Tailteann Games winner
      • The beaten semi-finalists (bronze medalists) were:
        • Miss Redington (Milltown)
        • Miss Oulton (Greystones)

Prior to the international events, there was a national competition for both ladies and men. Mr A.W. Briscoe (Castlerea), who was the reigning West of Ireland champion, won the men’s national event (36 holes), while Miss F.M. Blake took the national Ladies title (18 holes).

Obverse:

  • Crowned and veiled bust of Queen Tailté, facing left
  • Stylised Celtic dress-fastener on shoulder

Reverse:

  • Celtic strap-work border with arms of the four provinces of Ireland
  • Engraved “FIRST PRIZE GOLF”
  • Hallmarked “Dublin 1932”

The 1932 Tailteann Games

When the 1932 election saw Fianna Fáil form a government, there was no prospect of the Tailteann Games surviving. They were too closely identified with Cumann na nGaedheal and the bitterness of post-Civil War politics.

The Tailteann Games’ main backer, minister J. J. Walse, lost office when Fianna Fáil took power after the 1932 election, and public funding was cut. Against a background of the Great Depression and the Anglo-Irish Trade War, the 1932 Tailteann Games were cut from two weeks to one.

  • Despite this, they made a £12 profit !

The 1932 Games were considered a bit of a disappointment. This was due to the fact that the 1932 Olympic Games were to be held in faraway Los Angeles. Logistics meant that none of the top international athletes would appear, nor would the Irish Olympic competitors.

  • The 1932 Tailteann Games (29th June – 10th July) were completely overshadowed by the Eucharistic Congress (12th – 26th June) held in Dublin earlier that month which brought visitors from all over the world to Dublin
    • Over a million people attended an open air mass in the Phoenix Park
  • In addition, 1932 marked the start of a very unequal Economic War with the UK

Earlier Tailteann Games had included top foreign competitors to raise the profile of the sporting competitions but the 1932 Games were restricted to athletes of Irish descent and the number of sports was decreased, while the number of Irish cultural events was increased. Journalists began to question the value of the Games, they began to question de Valera’s motives and whether the international competitive element has given way to a parochial sporting event. This was to be the last Tailteann Games.

After the 1932 Games, Éamon de Valera established an inter-departmental committee to examine the future possibilities of staging a Tailteann Games. Eight years later, the inevitable result was the Games were no more – strangled to death by a committee !

 

Oliver Sheppard HRA (1864-1941)

Studied in Dublin, London and Paris before becoming a respected teacher on his return to Dublin. His overtly nationalistic style may have won him plaudits among the many nationalists who saw these games as a symbol of national identity.

  • He is best known by his 1798 Rebellion Memorial (The Bull Ring, Wexford)

Queen Tailté

The Tailteann Games were presented by Irish nationalists as revival of an ancient Irish custom, crushed by the English invaders. According to the Aonach Tailteann promotional programme, the origins of the games could be traced back to 632 B.C. to King Luaghaidh Lamhfáda (Long Hand) who ordered the celebration in honour of his foster mother’s funeral, Queen Tailté, ‘where athletes famed in Irish history met in friendly competition.’

  • The games began on the 1st of August, lasted for a week
  • They were attended by kings, chieftains and nobles from across Ireland

The Tailteann Games

The outbreak of the Civil War in 1922 meant that the games were postponed until August of 1924, a year after the war had finished. The Tailteann Games were held shortly after the Summer Olympics, such that athletes participating in Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928 came to compete. Participants coming from England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, the USA, South Africa and Australia as well as Ireland.

In 1924, no less than 23 medal winners from the Paris Olympics came and competed at the Aonach, including Richmond Eve (the high diver), Harold Osborne (the American athletics all-rounder) and Andrew Charleton (swimmer). Another star was the American Johnny Weismuller (later the famous Tarzan actor) in swimming. Despite having an Olympic-size swimming pool at Blackrock Baths, the swimming competition was held in the pond of Dublin Zoo, in the Phoenix Park.

It was intended as a tourist attraction, as well as a demonstration of the new state’s independence and national identity. In practice, the Games highlighted many of the contradictions and divisions within Irish nationalism.

The Irish Free State government had locked up over 12,000 republicans in the Civil War, many of whom were still in imprisoned in mid 1924. The Tailteann Games, supposed to be the exemplar of united Irish nation, could not escape the divisions caused by the internecine conflict of 1922-23. Since they were organised by the Pro-Treaty government, the Games would remain identified with the Free State side of the Civil War.

The original games (Óenach Tailten) of the early Gaelic period were played in Royal Meath and in what is the townland now known as Telltown. They lasted for a month and the games fulfilled three basic purposes:

  • to honour the illustrious dead
  • to promulgate new laws
  • to provide entertainment for the people

In 1169 the last traditional Tailteann Games were held under Rory O’Connor, the last High King of Ireland. The idea of restaging the Tailteann Games was mooted by Michael Davitt in the 1880’s and the idea of reviving them were adopted enthusiastically by the cultural nationalist movement that blossomed towards the end of the 19th century.

Many of these new literary, language and sporting bodies looked for their inspiration to a pre–Norman, Gaelic Ireland and the dress, games and mythology of that period was heavily used to promote these new groups and to inspire a confidence in the Irish people that they had a native culture that was both ancient and distinguished.

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